Steve Misamore - Country Drumming with Dierks
By Team HC |
Steve Misamore - Country Drumming with Dierks
The Country gig that manifested into a dream-come-true ...
by Brook Dalton
In addition to being an extremely affable and funny guy, Steve Misamore is also a very driven musician. From an early age, he knew that he wanted to spend his time playing the drums and after graduating college with a performance degree in music, he decided to take a chance and relocate from Houston to Nashville in order to further his goal. It was there that he met Dierks Bentley while playing in local honky tonks. Since then, Dierks has skyrocketed to the upper echelon of today’s Country stars, and Steve has been the man behind the kit every step of the way. I recently had an opportunity to meet with Steve and discuss the Nashville music scene, his history with Dierks, and the gig that manifested into a dream-come-true.
Brook Dalton: You grew up playing drums in Houston. How is the Texas musical environment different than playing in other places?
Steve Misamore: Texas has a musical world of its own. It’s been fun to watch it explode in past years. We’ve toured and have played many shows with Texas artists Pat Green, Wade Bowen, Cross Canadian Ragweed, and several others over the years and their talent and fan base are amazing. Many of these artists never even travel outside of Texas. They book their own shows, they make their own records, they do it ALL themselves and they do very, very well.
BD: How has the Nashville scene developed over the years? It’s been such a hot spot recently, how has its musical landscape changed and has it affected you as a working musician?
SM: The Nashville scene has changed dramatically since I moved to here in late ’93. Besides Country, it’s open to many other genres, as we’ve seen with the success of Kings of Leon and The Black Keys in Rock, Young Buck in Hip-Hop, there’s a huge Indie scene as well, and the very popular Bonnaroo Festival that we played in 2007. All of these things inspire young musicians to make the move to Nashville in order to explore the possibilities. If you love drumming, like I do, it’s hard not to get inspired watching the new talent coming from our opening acts on the road.
BD: Tell us about how you met Dierks and started playing music with him.
SM: I met Dierks in 1999. He called me on a recommendation from a friend when he had a bar gig on 2nd Ave at a place called Market Street in downtown Nashville and needed a drummer. At the time, I was into old school Country with a lot of shuffles and traditional straight-time beats. Ray Price, Buck Owens, and Freddie Hart kind of stuff. He was also really into the old school/ deep catalog Country stuff, as well as Bluegrass. We hit it off right away and I was able to open a few doors for him at Sony/ATV publishing where I had a part-time job archiving old demos from the ‘60s and ‘70s. A couple years later, he had a record deal, a hit song, and we were on road living the dream!
BD: Do you think it’s possible to be completely relaxed behind a kit while playing intense or very soulful material?
SM: I’m not sure if it’s possible to be completely relaxed in an intense song and I don’t think you necessarily want to be. In our arena shows, we’re playing in front of thousands of people who, hopefully, are not completely relaxed and are rocking! I want to be in the moment with them, first and foremost. If we’re playing “Riser”, which is slow and very intense at 81 bpm, I want to be accurate in my timing and feel, but when the chorus kicks in, I want goose bumps because the moment is slamming and I’m slamming! That’s the thrill of playing live music, which I love the most. Being in the studio is very rewarding because you can do it again and get it dialed-in creatively, but on the stage there’s that immediate intense feedback and vibe from a killer audience, big or small, that makes my job the best job in the world.
BD: Some of the modern era of Country music combines elements from other genres, like Rock and even Hip-Hop. When you’re writing drum parts with Dierks, are you approaching the songs with more of an eclectic mindset or are there traditional beats, styles, or gear that you like to incorporate? Is the train beat played with brushes a thing of the past for you guys?
SM: It’s been a few albums since I’ve worked on the studio stuff, but it’s in good hands with the likes of Aaron Sterling, Fred Eltringham, and other studio aces. They get together with Dierks and Ross Copperman (the producer) and work out the details. Dierks knows what he wants, knows when it feels right, and he’s easy to read. For our live shows, our bandleader, Dan Hochhalter, gets me the Pro Tools studio tracks, which are edited down to the rhythm section and all of the drums and loops. I will sum the loops and sounds to two or three stereo tracks for the live show or lift sounds for my Roland SPD-SX. Although the traditional ‘train beat’ doesn’t reach many downloaded files these days, it may make an appearance in an unexpected surprise in our live show this year!
BD: Do you find yourself playing much music when you’re not on tour, or do you look forward to other hobbies?
SM: When I’m home I’m usually recording or practicing on my Maple/Mahogany or maple DW Collector’s Series drums. If I’m not doing that, I’m on a hike with my wife in East Tennessee and enjoying landscape photography. I also have my private pilot’s license and look forward to getting back in the left seat this year after a bit of a hiatus.
BD: How often do you get drunk when you’re on a plane?
SM: Wha??? HAHA!! No comment! HA!...Titos.
BD: After doing as many extensive tours as you’ve done, and playing huge shows on a continual basis, do you ever look forward to performing a small gig at a bar or club when you’re home? How does your outlook differ when playing a more intimate show rather than an arena?
SM: Every once in a while we get a chance to play a small club and we all love it! Dierks recently booked a night in Nashville on Broadway at a bar called Legends to promote our hometown headlining show at Bridgestone Arena on January 21, which is basically across the street from Legends. We played there back in the early pre-record deal days and were fired because we didn’t play any current covers! It was fun playing shuffles and some 90’s Country to a much more enthusiastic audience this time around. By the way, Dierks made sure the bartenders and, in particular, the actual working band we bumped to do our set were well taken care of. As far as my mindset, it’s the same approach: have fun and be with that audience.
BD: Tell us about the kit that you’re taking on the road with you this year.
SM: The kit I’m playing this year is a beautiful DW Collector’s Series in white with a blue iridescent finish to it that our Production Manager, Jay Ballinger, designed with some help from DW artist relations guru Scott Garrison. The sizes are 8x13”, 16x16”, 16x18”, 16x22”, a maple 5.5x14” main snare, and a 7x14” cherry side snare with a natural finish. I also play Zildjian cymbals, Evans heads, and Vater drumsticks.
BD: Why do you feel that the Maple/Mahogany shells are best-suited for your style and these songs?
SM: The Maple/Mahogany shells are best-suited for what we do for many reasons. We don’t do sound checks very often. This is a testament to the amazing crew we have and a well-designed show that fits many situations. Whether it’s a festival or our tour, either my tech, BJ Abner, or I need to be able to dial in the same killer sound every night for our front-of-house engineer Jim ‘Pugs’ McDermott. I do this with the help of Tune Bot, which I absolutely love, and the fact that the DW Maple/Mahogany shells deliver a full tone with a bit of a faster decay than maple shells. The mahogany gives it that warmer color, approaching vintage, but not too much because of the maple inner plies. The result is a great sound that has covered a lot of Country music from 2003-2017.
BD: Name one of your heroes from outside of the realm of music. Why do you admire them?
SM: My hero is my wife, Carry Ann Misamore. Last year, she went through a life-saving kidney transplant as a result of living with PKD (Polycystic Kidney Disease) since she was diagnosed at the age of fifteen. Her brother, Kelly Lambson, my other hero, was the donor. Her recovery has been nothing short of incredible and she continues to inspire me every day.
BD: Do you find that the band’s European fan base is much different than the audiences from the USA? SM: We love to play the UK, Ireland, and Australia...or anywhere overseas, for that matter. The audiences overseas enjoy Country music from all eras, the same as we do. Although we still have the best Country music fans ever!
BD: Is there a country that you haven’t played in that is on your bucket list?
SM: Not really, in particular. We love all of them! Any chance we get to play in another country and experience its culture is a treat.
BD: Do you have any personal goals for 2017?
SM: My personal mantra is always to be a better player this year than I was last year. Drumming is a never-ending journey of discovery and growth. I love Questlove’s quote: “Never a teacher, always a student.” That really resonates with me…pun intended. -HC-
- reprinted with expressed written permision DW's Edge Magazine -
Brook Dalton is the Senior Planner at Drum Workshop. While I wear a lot of hats here, my focus lies on figuring out how many components and items we need to order in relation to DW hardware and DW drums. I work with the Purchasers in order to make sure that things run as smoothly as possible. I’m also considered a Product Specialist and assist different departments with questions they have concerning our gear.